Sowing the Seeds of Community

6, 7, 8

The youth read the book Seedfolks and discuss the diverse characters and their individual contributions to a community garden. While learning about the thirteen individuals in the story, they identify their character, heritage, motivations, and contributions to nourishing and maintaining the vacant lot garden. They discuss how their combined efforts changed not only their lives but also the lives of their community for the better. They relate this to their own diverse community.

PrintThree 45-Minute Sessions

The learner will:

  • explore and reflect on universal themes of community, philanthropy, helping, and sharing.
  • one copy of Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman for each youth
  • world map 
Teacher Preparation 

Put together a small plastic bag for each youth containing an identical variety of dried seeds, acorns, pumpkin seeds, dried beans, dried peas, flower, and fruit seeds.

  • Fleischman, Paul, Seedfolks, Harper Collins Children's Books, 1997



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    The youth examine their bags containing a variety of seeds. They describe and compare the seeds and predict what kinds of plants come from these seeds. Write the word philanthropy on the board. Ask what they know about the word and discuss the definition: giving time, talent, and treasure for the common good. Share stories of people volunteering, using their voice, and taking action to make a change for the good of all. Make the connection that when we do something philanthropic, it is like planting an unknown seed. We don't always know what the results will be, but we do know that something will "grow" from it, if properly cared for.

  2. Assign parts of the book Seedfolks to individuals to read. They each read about an individual who planted seeds and ended up with much more than they expected. They describe their character, find their country of origin on a world map, identify their strengths and motivations, and tell about their contribution to and what they get from the garden. 

  3. After reading their parts, they describe the different characters and summarize their parts for the other readers. Discuss the following:

    1. How did stereotypes damage the lives of people who lived near Gibb Street?
    2. Have stereotypes hurt your life?
    3. Why do you think the author chose to end the book with Florence's story?
    4. How does this narrative connect all the separate stories in Seedfolks?
    5. Can you think of anything besides a garden that could have united the community and brought joy to so many people's lives?
    6. What are the benefits to coming together as a diverse community?
  4. Read aloud the portion of the book entitled "From Seed to Seedfolks" by the author, Paul Fleischman. Discuss and reflect on this portion of the book as well as the entire book as it relates to what they know about philanthropy and philanthropic acts.

  5. As a reflection about the book and their own lives, youth write, film, or draw an interpretation of Thoreau's quote "I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."

  6. Alternatives: Write a social media literature review to encourage others to read the story, design a community action project to bring a diverse community together, or share the story with a group of people in a retirement home to encourage generational engagement and conversation around how things change.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Discuss the variety of family relationships in the nation's society.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Give an example of how philanthropy can transcend cultures.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.